Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has appointed the director general of the Ministry, Udi Adam, to study the operations of Army Radio and the possibility of privatizing it, a report in Haaretz said Tuesday. The study is part of a multiyear restructuring of the IDF, which began under the aegis of former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
Liberman is known to be in favor of closing the station, or privatizing it, as he does not feel that there is a need for an IDF radio station in the modern era. The original purpose of the station was to bring news and information to soldiers in the field during a period in which there were few media outlets. That is clearly not the situation today, and there is no need for the station to be funded publicly any longer according to Liberman, the Haaretz report said.
Liberman is not alone in seeking to close the station. In recent discussions, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott said that there could be no justification for the funding of a radio station when the army was being forced to cut other services due to budget issues.
Commenting on the story, MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) slammed the appointment. “Liberman has made Army Radio his target, and he wants to close it,” the MK said in a statement. “This is an antidemocratic act. The issue is a public one, as Army Radio is a public media outlet, and as such any changes must be viewed with a wide lens. This is another battle in ensuring an open, free and courageous media in Israel.”
Last week, Army Radio suspended its culture reporter Gidi Orsher, after he posted comments on social media that were deemed to be offensive to Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. Orsher, commenting on what he called the “war on culture” being waged by Culture Minister Miri Regev, Orsher wrote “all the Kachlonim (referring to Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon, of Yemenite background) and the Shas types and the ‘Eastern Rainbow’ (a reference to a secular group that promotes Mizrachi culture), all the professional whiners from the East – next time you have a heart attack [over criticism of an aspect of your culture] don’t bother with a heart procedure. Just put a chicken’s foot on your head like your grandmothers did. The next time you gather in a bomb shelter when the missiles are falling, forget about Iron Dome and just say Tehillim.” Orsher made numerous other comments in this vein.
Public reaction to the post was fierce, to the extent that Army Radio said that it felt it had no choice but to suspend Orsher in its wake. Regev said that she welcomed the move. “He has proven just how deep the patronizing attitude of the ‘cultural elites’ is. As far as I am concerned, he is a ‘zero’ on the Miri Regev scale,” a reference to Orsher’s method of rating cultural events. Interior Minister and Shas head Rabbi Aryeh Deri called Orsher “the lowest kind of racist, who incites entire populations and relates to them with a patronizing attitude, and with terrible racism.”